Hosting webpage translations: Legal?
May 28, 2010 3:42 AM   Subscribe

I want to translate some pages and make the translation available to other people. Can I do that? Google apparently can, without asking permission of the original author. What happens to the copyright of (Google-) translated web pages?

When I use Google Translate to translate eg a German webpage, what is the intellectual property rights situation? The original author must surely retain copyright on the translations. But how/why is Google allowed to display translated versions of the text? And would I be allowed to put up translated versions on the web?

So for example, is it kosher for me to put up an English translation of a German webpage on my own site? (I'd obviously be linking to the original.)
posted by Zarkonnen to Law & Government (8 answers total)
Best answer: By a strict interpretation of copyright law Google also doesn't have the right to make cached copies of web pages available for download from their servers, but they do that too. I think the reason they get away with it is because they provide a simple opt-out mechanism for sites that don't want to participate and they provide a useful service that brings in the majority of most sites traffic.

I'd say as long as you don't plan to put ads on the page and there's clear contact info just go ahead and do it, and be prepared to cheerfully take it down if someone asks.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:05 AM on May 28, 2010

According to this Google Translate help page, under "Preventing a section of a web page from being translated", website owners can add a line to their robots.txt file to prevent Google Translate translating it. Anyone who cared about the copyright over translations of their web pages could just use this. This might make a copyright lawsuit kind of pointless, although I think the main reason Google gets away with it is that most stuff is put up on the web so other people can read it, and the more people who can read it, the better.

As for your German website example, why not just ask?
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:05 AM on May 28, 2010

Response by poster: Re: A Thousand Baited Hooks - Asking would be difficult given that not everyone puts contact information up, and the overhead and delay would make my project kind of useless.
posted by Zarkonnen at 6:32 AM on May 28, 2010

I would do like Google does: just do it and email the original author at the same time with an option to opt out. If you don't have the contact information, give a link to the original page and mention on your site that any translated author or publisher can opt out.
posted by bru at 9:07 AM on May 28, 2010

As far as I know you cannot just publish translated song lyrics without paying royalties. Since this is pretty much the same situation, you're probably not allowed to do what you're planning.

In general copyright is not about the actual language or words, but about the (formalised) ideas behind it. A poem is more than just its words. The poem in another language is still the same "more".

(And of course copy right differs in different jurisdictions, and I'm not a lawyer)
posted by oxit at 9:59 AM on May 28, 2010

Authors retain foreign rights to their work. Or to put it another way, translation is not a way to get around copyright.

Besides, it's only polite to ask. I've been asked to allow translations from my website many times; I'm usually happy to, but it's a chance to make sure the translation links back to my page, has my name spelled right, and isn't being used commercially.

If you can't be bothered to ask, then don't do it.
posted by zompist at 2:32 PM on May 28, 2010

Response by poster: zompist, oxit: My question is: Google don't ask for permission to translate. Why don't they have to?
posted by Zarkonnen at 2:03 AM on May 29, 2010

Well you were asking the other question, too :-)

Google don't ask for permission to translate. Why don't they have to?

I don't know. Maybe though, they're not providing a translated version but means to translate any page on the fly. Or in other words, they're not using the content itself to work for them commercially (which of course one could argue ), but their service is the tool itself. Can't blame the tool, can you?

You, however, seem to want to host the content to attract readers. Alternatively, just link/iframe the Google translated page?
posted by oxit at 5:08 AM on May 29, 2010

« Older NYC => DC: Train or plane?   |   I think Aunt Flo is trying to kill me Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.